Yahweh and his sheep (Ezek 34:31-34:31)

“‘You are my sheep,

The sheep

Of my pasture.

I am your God.’

Says Yahweh God!”

In a great simple statement, Yahweh proclaimed, via Ezekiel, that the Israelites were his sheep in his pasture. Yahweh was their God. Case closed, end of discussion.

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Yahweh saves his flock (Ezek 34:21-34:22)

“You pushed

With your flank.

You pushed

With your shoulder.

You butted

At all the weak animals

With your horns.

You have scattered them

Far and wide.

I will save my flock.

They shall no longer

Be ravaged.

I will judge

Between sheep

With sheep.”

Yahweh, via Ezekiel, complained about the bad sheep. They were pushing the other sheep around with their sides or flanks and their shoulders. They were butting all the weak sheep with their horns. Thus, they were scattering Yahweh’s flock of sheep. Yahweh said that his sheep would no longer be ravaged, because he was going to judge between the good and the bad sheep.

Yahweh returns them to the good pastures of Israel (Ezek 34:13-34:15)

“‘I will bring them

Out from the various people.

I will gather them

From the various countries.

I will bring them

Into their own land.

I will feed them

On the mountains

Of Israel.

They will be

By the water fountains,

In all the inhabited places

Of the country.

I will feed them

With good pasture.

The mountain heights

Of Israel

Shall be their pasture.

They shall lie down there

In good grazing land.

They shall feed

On rich pasture

On the mountains

Of Israel.

I myself

Will be the shepherd

Of my sheep.

I will make them

Lie down.’

Says Yahweh God.”

Somewhat reminiscent of Psalm 23 about the good shepherd, Yahweh, their God, said that he was going to bring all his lost sheep together from the various countries where they had been. They were going to go back to their own land. Yahweh was going to feed them on the mountains of Israel with flowing water in all the inhabited places of their country. He was going to feed them from the good pastures in the mountain heights of Israel. There they would lie down in this good grazing land. They would eat from the rich pastures on the mountains of Israel. Yahweh was going to be their shepherd, the good shepherd of his sheep. He was going to make them lie down in great green pastures.

Yahweh will search for his scattered sheep (Ezek 34:11-34:12)

“Thus says Yahweh God!

‘I myself

Will search

For my sheep.

I will

Seek them out.

As shepherds seek out

Their flocks,

When they are

Among their scattered sheep,

So will I

Seek out my sheep.

I will rescue them

From all the places

To which

They have been scattered

On a day of clouds,

On a day of thick darkness.’”

Yahweh God said, via Ezekiel, that he was himself going to search out for his scattered sheep. He was going to be like the shepherds with their flocks. Just as they went looking for their lost sheep, Yahweh was going to do the same. He was going to seek out his sheep and rescue them from all the places that they had been scattered during the cloudy days of thick darkness.

Yahweh will rescue the sheep (Ezek 34:9-34:10)

“Therefore,

You shepherds!

Hear

The word of Yahweh!

Thus says Yahweh God!

‘I am

Against the shepherds!

I will demand

My sheep

At their hand.

I will put a stop

To their feeding

Of the sheep.

No longer

Shall the shepherds

Feed themselves.

I will rescue

My sheep

From their mouths.

Thus,

These sheep

May not

Be food

For them.’”

Yahweh, via Ezekiel, was mad at the shepherds of Israel. They were to listen to the word of Yahweh. Yahweh, their God, wanted his sheep back. These shepherds or leaders of Israel were to stop eating his sheep. Yahweh was going to rescue his sheep from the mouths of these shepherds. Yahweh’s sheep would no longer be their food.

The scattered sheep (Ezek 34:5-34:6)

“The sheep

Were scattered,

Because there was

No shepherd.

Thus,

They became food

For all the wild animals.

My sheep

Were scattered.

They wandered

Over all the mountains.

They wandered

On every high hill.

My sheep

Were scattered

Over all the face

Of the earth.

There was no one

To search

For them.

There was no one

To seek

For them.”

Yahweh, via Ezekiel, said that his sheep were scattered, because there was no shepherd to lead them. Thus, these sheep became food for all the wild animals, perhaps an allusion to the attacks of the Assyrians and the Babylonians. The sheep of Israel and Judah were scattered, so that they wandered into the mountains and the high hills, perhaps an allusion to the high places of idol worship. His sheep were scattered all over all the face of the earth, perhaps an allusion to the captivity. Finally, there was no leader or shepherd to go out to search and look for them. They were the lost sheep of Israel.

The nothingness of humans (Sir 18:8-18:14)

“What are human beings?

What use are they?

What is good about them?

What is evil about them?

The number of days in their life is great,

If they reach one hundred years.

The death of each one

Is beyond the calculation of all.

Like a drop of water from the sea,

Like a grain of sand,

So are these few years

Among the days of eternity.

Therefore the Lord is patient with them.

He pours out his mercy upon them.

He sees them.

He recognizes

That their end is miserable.

Therefore he grants them forgiveness all the more.

The compassion of human beings

Is for their neighbors.

But the compassion of the Lord

Is for every living thing.

He rebukes them.

He trains them.

He teaches them.

He turns them back,

As a shepherd his flock.

He has compassion on those

Who accept his discipline.

He has compassion on those

Who are eager for his precepts.”

Sirach points out that human beings, in contrast to the greatness of God, are useless, like a later 20th century existential 1943 Jean Paul Sartre work, Being and Nothingness. They have a little good and little evil in them, but they have a short unpredictable life, at best 100 years long. Their lives are like a drop of water in the sea or a grain of sand on the shore compared to divine eternity. That is why the Lord is patient and merciful with them. He knows that they will come to a miserable end, so that he grants them forgiveness. While the compassion of humans is for their neighbors, the compassion of the Lord is for all living things. Like a theme later attributed to Jesus, Sirach sees the Lord as a shepherd who rebukes, trains, teaches, and takes his sheep back and forth. The Lord has compassion for those who accept his discipline and precepts.